Amnesty International toils to tell real videos from fakes

Published 20 September 201

Increasingly artificial-intelligence video tools, like FakeApp, are raising concerns by helping the technically astute create realistic computer-generated videos known as “deepfakes.” A video can put a person’s face on somebody else’s body, make them say words they never uttered, show them in a place they’ve never been, or even put them at an event that never occurred.

When Amnesty International launched a probe this year into police crackdowns against Russian protesters, one of its research methods was to collect and verify videos posted on social media from across Russia since 2012.

Denis Krivosheyev, deputy director of Amnesty’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia department, says images posted on social media can greatly strengthen human rights investigations if the authenticity of photos and videos can be reliably verified.

But images distributed over the Internet are easily misrepresented for propaganda purposes or manipulated by pranksters.

Increasingly sophisticated artificial-intelligence video tools, like FakeApp, are also raising concerns by helping the technically astute create realistic computer-generated videos known as “deepfakes.”

A deepfake video can put a person’s face on somebody else’s body, make them say words they never uttered, show them in a place they’ve never been, or even put them at an event that never occurred.

That’s why Amnesty created its Digital Verification Corps (DVC), a network of about 100 students at six universities around the world who are the vanguard for identifying authentic and fraudulent social-media posts.

The diverse team of volunteers is being trained as the next generation of human rights researchers, fluent in new tools and methods to spot videos and confirm whether online images are really from the time and place that is claimed.

Game changer
Krivosheyev says the flood of videos and photos now being shared online has been “absolutely a game changer” for human rights investigations.

“Just looking at how our work has changed over the last decade, there is a major difference in the level of confidence with which we can speak about things as ‘fact,’ as opposed to ‘allegations,’ because we are able to see photographic and video evidence of human rights violations,” Krivosheyev tells RFE/RL.

“We’re talking about a range of things — from violations of the right to peaceful assembly, to torture, to people being unlawfully deprived of their liberty,” Krivosheyev says.



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